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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Man Who Owned America: A Science Fiction Story

In order to understand how Cory Gates became the owner of the United States of America, you have to first go back to those wild days of the 2030's, when the big corporations were starting to fight each other with increasing violence. Each of the big corporations started to hire its own mercenaries, although at first they were just called security contractors or security guards. There were many truck hijackings, computer hacking attacks, and cases of arson; and before long it became apparent that it wasn't just loner crooks doing this. It was the private armies of the big corporations fighting each other.

People were willing to put up with this for quite a while. But when the big corporations started to arm their mercenaries with machine guns and missile-armed attack helicopters, things started to get out of hand. People got tired of being woken up at night by attack helicopters and exploding buildings. People also got tired of stepping over dead bodies in front of office buildings and stores.

So finally someone proposed a radical solution designed to stop the corporate fighting entirely. The idea was to combine all of the country's corporations into one big corporation that would be called America, Inc. That way there couldn't be any violent fighting between corporations, because there would be only one corporation in the country.

The idea caught on, and before long Congress passed the legislation authorizing the big change. All of the corporations were merged into a single corporation called America, Inc. It was a corporation that owned pretty much everything in the country. Almost everyone other than the poorest people owned at least some shares in the new corporation.

But by this time the richest people in the US had become very, very rich. There was, in fact, a single individual by the name of Cory Gates who owned 45% of the stock in America, Inc. After a few years he was able to increase that up to 51%. Once he gained majority ownership, he was able to manipulate things so that his share would get even bigger.

It was all a fancy scheme too complicated to be described here. The scheme involved inverse options, sub-millisecond computerized stock trading, computerized virtual proxies, collateralized debt obligations, and “trapdoor” regulations secretly introduced into the bylaws of America, Inc. You can kind of describe it by saying it was a shrinkage scheme designed to make the share of all minority stockholders gradually dwindle away to be nothing. When the scheme started to take effect, people started to scream bloody murder, saying that Cory Gates was trying to up his ownership of America, Inc. all the way up to 100%. But the scheme was so complicated that no one could really figure it out well enough to stop the scheme from working.

Finally the complicated scheme ran its course. One day it was at last announced that Cory Gates now owned 100% of the shares of America, Inc. It was now finally official. Cory Gates was now basically the owner of the entire country. 

For 30 years Cory enjoyed the perks of being America's owner. The Pledge of Allegiance recited by children was changed to have the following wording:

We pledge allegiance to America, Inc., and to its owner Cory Gates – one corporation under Cory, indivisible, with obedience and subservience expected from all.

Cory lived in the opulence you might expect from someone who owned an entire nation. His bedroom was ten times bigger than a football stadium, and contained 200 different beds, some as large as trucks. Cory liked sleeping in a different bed every night. He would also travel around the country, staying in any home he would pick. Few people could object, because most people's homes had a mortgage with America, Inc being the lender, meaning Cory pretty much owned most people's homes.

People with regular jobs all worked for America, Inc, meaning Cory was their boss. People who refused to work for America, Inc. usually ended up in what they called “unemployment camps,” although the prisoners in such camps were often worked mercilessly. Each prisoner would be controlled by an electronic pain necklace that he could not remove. If a guard saw the prisoners acting up, he would just activate their pain necklaces, causing punishing anguish.

Officially there was still a President of the US during this period, although he was just a figurehead because Cory controlled the whole country. But after decades of being America's owner, Cory finally died of a heart attack.

Cory's will specified that all of his assets should be inherited by his son Todd. Everyone thought that Todd Gates would rule as America's owner, just as his father had. But Todd had no interest in lording over people or living like a king. Todd was only interested in one thing: reading and writing comic books.

So shortly after his father's death, Todd gave a televised speech that announced a radical change.

I have decided to donate all of my shares of America Inc. to the American population,” announced Todd. “Each American will own one share of the corporation. The bylaws of the corporation will be adjusted so that it is strictly forbidden for anyone to own more than one share of the corporation.”

There will no longer be a single person ruling as America's owner,” explained Todd. “The country will be controlled by a President who will be elected by an annual meeting of the stockholders. Since each American will be a stockholder, each American will have one and only one vote that helps decides who controls the country.”

A man listening to the speech in his home was delighted.

Why this almost sounds like that old-fashioned system they use to follow long, long ago,” said the man to his wife. “I've forgotten what they used to call it.”

I think they called it...democracy,” said his wife.